This is my first post on BPL. Until now, I have been a simple ghost haunting the forums of BPL to find ways to cut weight while backpacking. I first stumbled on the site last spring as I was preparing for a 10 day hike in Kluane National Park.
As someone who spends a lot of time in the outdoors my primary focus with gear has always been function and multi-purposefullness, if that's a word. Living in northern Canada has meant that bushcraft has been my primary focus in regards to skill acquisition over the years. However, I have found that lightweight backpacking blends well with bushcraft as both, at their core, tend to emphasize simplicity, resourcefulness, and skill over needing x number of items to survive outdoors. I learned a lot the first few months of perusing BPL forums and the on-going contributions of various members here helped me dial in my gear and added to my confidence out in the bush.
However, it didn't take too long for me to begin to sour on the BPL forums. After the initial thrill of getting my base weight cut and learning how to make good gear lists I started to view the forums as an extension of our consumer driven society, where the acquisition of gear seemed more important than the act of being outdoors. The final straw for me came sometime, if I remember correctly, around late August, early September of 2013. My girlfriend and I just came back from a day of hiking with our dog. Tired, full (after a tasty salmon dinner) and content I stopped in on the BPL forums to see if there were any interesting threads. One of the members had posted a note stating that there was supposed to be a meteor shower that evening and he may have even posted some pictures to go along with the thread. I was excited to read it, as I generally am with posts that appeal to my interests. But I also found it strange and rather ironic. Here, on a site that purported to be about backpacking, which in my mind is specifically about spending time in nature, a post about enjoying the stars on a clear fall night seemed out of place amidst discussions about cuben-fiber tarps, tents, underwear and stuff sacks. Then and there I vowed to cut ties to a site that he become an almost daily aspect of my internet viewing.
In retrospect, it was wrong of me to bail. Despite my annoyance with the never ending conversations about which windshirt is the lightest and most breathable and discussions about how to spend more money to drop an ounce, I know there are lots of people, both regular contributors as well as silent stalkers who use this forum as motivation to continue their own exploration of the world they live in and as a platform to share their passion for the outdoors. Besides, I learned a lot from the members of BPL as I was preparing for our trip to Kluane. And it'd be a shame not to share some pictures with those who might be interested.
*DISCLAIMER - This was not a lightweight backpacking trip. Though my girlfriend and I were able to cut our base weight to around 16lbs each, the rest of the group were traditional backpackers. We ended up getting saddled with lots of extra gear. The organizer of the trip, a 70 year old lady, has spent 25 years wandering around Kluane National Park with a heavy backpack and I can't blame her for being content with what has worked for her.
KLUANE NATIONAL PARK - July 28th to August 6th, 2013
Rough route description - Big Horn Lake - Kluane Glacier - Donjek Glacier - Atlas Pass to Duke River - Copper Joe Creek to Highway
We chartered a float plane and flew from Kluane Lake to Big Horn Lake, the starting point for our trek. The views from the plane were in itself worth the trip.
We spent our first night camped near the warden's cabin at Big Horn Lake. The next morning we headed off into the netherlands with the goal of reaching the toe of the Kluane Glacier. We were a group of six - five women and myself. Despite the occasional longing for a man to chat with it was pretty inspiring to see five strong women tackle the rugged trek.
Here you can see the Kluane Glacier in the background. In areas where the Donjek river ran along the left bank we were forced to bushwhack through sections of willow, alder thickets, and spruce. It was slow and laborious work.
A view from our campsite on the Donjek River.
At the toe of the Kluane Glacier there were several glacier pools. Despite the cold water we couldn't resist a swim.
We only saw one grizzly bear on the trip, but they were never far away. The only 'trails' that we were fortunate enough to follow were usually game trails. The bears were active and root diggings and berry patches were ripe with scat.
After our making it to the Kluane Glacier we backtracked and began our trek to the Donjek Glacier. We passed by the warden's cabin at Big Horn Lake, did an early morning cross of Big Horn Creek and made our way along the banks of the Donjek River to the glacier. Here is our first glimpse of the Donjek Glacier:
Spot the hiker: This picture gives a good sense of the scale of Kluane. My girlfriend Allison needs a rest. Apparently we have some work to do to cut some weight!
The Donjek Glacier in all of its glory. The toe of the glacier is approximately 7km long.
Apologies for the disturbing photo of my nether-regions, but my first order of business upon reaching the glacier was to cool off. Followed shortly by a glass of whiskey with ice from the Donjek Glacier.
After a night of sleeping along side the glacier and listening to it calve and moan we began the bushwhack to Atlas Creek. We travelled up Atlas Creek, over Atlas Pass, and dropped down to the Duke River
By the time we made it to the bottom of Atlas Pass we were beat. We decided to make camp at the bottom of the pass and wait to tackle it the next morning. Our neighbours for the evening were a group of Dall sheep who made mountain passes look much easier than they were.
Here is a picture of the group making our way up Atlas Pass and then coming back down the other side.
Once down on the Duke river we followed it south, crossed Grizzly Creek and then crossed the Duke to reach Copper Joe Creek. The water levels were high on the Duke and it required careful traversing.
Our last night at camp along the Duke River was quiet. A sense of nostalgia had already kicked in and our trip wasn't even complete.
After reaching Copper Joe creek we had a look back at some of the land we had travelled. In the picture we are looking back at Grizzly valley. The vastness of Kluane National Park leaves the imagine adrift with possibilities. A lifetime of exploring these mountain ranges would still leave many stones unturned.
Tired, dirty, but smiling Allison and I posed for one of the few pictures we have of us together. We were on our way out of Kluane, but as we rounded the corner and spotted the highway, and along with it our first glimpses of civilization for 10 days, we were already discussing which valley's would need more exploration when we come back next year.